Monday, November 16, 2009

Excelsior Mountain (The Pass)

(GPS: N38° 02.485 119° 17.700)
At some point we got off trail due to some snow, and that cost us about 30 minutes of extra hiking and some uphill. It was a stupid mistake and should have never happened. We ended up coming back to the trail with no problems, but we took an unfortunate detour. When I get off trail it can be pretty demoralizing since I feel like I am using valueable energy that I really need for the real trail.
I knew at some point we would have to encounter icy snow, but the question was whether it would be level or at an incline. There were a few points on the trail where there was level snow, but it was not really an issue. However, at the pass I knew it would be different. You can see the pass at the low point in the background, and that is the snow we would have to cross. The snow was solid in the morning. We did have to becareful at some points. There were a few rocks sticking out and some footholes others had made. What I was somewhat concerned about, which is always something in the back of my mind on a uphill hike, is coming back down. In a few hours, the icy snow would turn into slushy snow. You can see part of the patch of snow we crossed below and how the trails zig zags to get to this point.
This is looking back down from where we came from. You can see Dunderberg Peak in full view. That was a possible option of climbing, but I did not really want to do that this time around. Maybe someday in the future. That hike is one where it is almost straight up. If you remember my Belle Starr's Daughter locations from two years ago that is just on the other side of that mountain.Trying to find the name of this pass is an interesting thing. We started out at Virginia Lakes. I was thinking it might be called Virginia Pass. No, although not too far away, that is to the north of what comes from the Green Creek trailhead. In the video I show that the trail continues in one direction, but we head south. If we had continued on the trail we would have headed to Summit Lake. According to Secor's The High Sierra book we were on the Summit Lake Trail. So, how about "Summit Pass?" I like to refer to it as the trail that starts out at Virginia Lakes, or the Virginia Lakes trailhead. In any case, now the real "fun" would begin. At this point we were about two hours into the hike which would have been shorter had we not made the mistake we did that cost us about 30 minutes.A couple of things I should point out in the above picture. My final destination is the mountain in the middle and in background: Mt. Excelsior. The real trick to the hike is coming up next. We had to get over the saddle of that 11,000 ft. mountain to the right of it. If we could get past the "hump" then I was almost certain we would get to the top.
The following video was re-edited during the summer of 2013. I cut out a lot of things compared to the original videos:

To Excelsior Mountain (Youtube Version)

To Excelsior Mountain (Vimeo Version)

The following music was used from Mellowtron, Constancy Part One, Gustav Sting, and Fluidscape.